Introduction: Hat Stretcher

I have always loved vintage full brimmed hats. I recently acquired a couple of hats but they were too small and were destined to the closet along with the hat I inherited from my grandfather that was also to small. I thought what a shame I'll never be able to wear these hats. Thats when I thought about stretching them, I found some youtube videos and they all used a hat stretcher that sells online for around $25. Thats not a lot of money but they are quite simple and I was able to make them at a fraction of the cost.

The material list is pretty simple:

1x3 of wood, (I used red oak, in hind sight I would use a much softer wood that is easier to work with)

1/4" x 7 3/4" turn buckle

Wood glue

The tools were also basic:

Jig saw

Dremel with the "565 cutting kit"


Assorted sand paper

Step 1: Making the Patern

First thing I did was make a pattern for the stretcher. For this I used a hat that fit my head well and placed a flashlight inside the hat, then laid piece of graph paper over the hole with the center marked by a crease. I traced the inside of the hat on one side then folded the paper in half and cut out the shape. I did this for the front and the back. Then I used a compass to draw the curve for the inside. Next I marked where there will be a notch for the turnbuckle.

Step 2: Trace the Pattern, Cut Out, and Glue.

I traced the pattern onto the 1x3, each cut out will make up half of one side.

Using a jig saw I cut out each piece. for the tight inside curves I made some relief cuts.

For the notch the the turnbuckle will slide into I used my Dremel tool with a cutting bit, it's all a part of the kit mentioned in the tools needed section. I set the depth of the guide to about half the thickness of the eyelet on the turnbuckle, which was about 1/8". I did this by hand to it's not perfect but it won't be to visible so all that counts is that it works. ;-)

Once I had all of the pieces cut out I glued them together. Don't be shy with the glue. I squeezed on the glue and spread it evenly over the surface with my finger, then I clamped the two pieces together. If you don't have clamps you cant use a screw or two, just make sure to pre-drill your holes so you don't split the wood.

The last picture shows how the turnbuckle fits in the notch.

Step 3: Finish Shaping the Stretcher.

The last part was to finish shaping the pieces by hand. In hindsight, red oak was a little overkill. Next time I will use a much softer wood, aspen or pine would probably be just fine and make this step a lot easier!

I started with a rasp to clean everything up but it was slow going. One of these days I'll break down and buy a drum sander!

Finally I improvised and used a couple pieces of self adhesive sand paper I had for a sanding block and I stuck them to a hole-saw. This worked pretty well, just watch out for the teeth and over lap the sand paper so you don't catch an edge.

When all was said and don't I finally had a hat stretcher for my hats. Now I can go bald in style!

Before stretching your hats I recommend doing a little research so you know what you are doing. I liked this video.

Good luck!